30 August 2006

Funnier than something you wouldn't laugh at

Part One:


I'm a marginal Conan fan--I enjoy him (like most) more than any other late night host on NBC, though that's like saying I'd rather live a healthy life instead of being shot in the groin or stuck in a room with a humorless Carson Daly.

I think Conan's show is funny on some nights, not on others, but overall better than most. This opening to this year's Douche Chill-worthy Emmy Awards is far better than most other award show openings I've seen.

It's got a dry theme, Steve Carell doing his "Michael Scott" thing, and Dateline NBC's Chris Porter even poking a bit of fun at himself. I think those are the three ingredients missing from every other awards show opening.

Also, the song at the end of his monologue is actually catchy. Enjoy.

Part Two:

The good kind of German

I'm getting fucking sick of bands with faux-witty names. Every band trying to be "indie" (see Culture Bully's great discussion with [non shittily named] The Majestic Twelve's Kenyata Sullivan for a clear look at all the bullshit arguments over indie vs major here).

Clever Titles are So Last Summer is a music blog with an accurate title. When I see more wit in a title than in the band's actual music, it troubles me a bit. Even more, I don't like to see potentially decent names (Scary Kids Scaring Kids has a nice ring) turn out to be paired with middle school emo kid lyrics (they actually have a fucking song called "My knife, your throat"...um....wow). Honestly, I don't know how these people get the jobs they do.

I know I could write (at least lyrically) better songs than every confessional, Sylvia-Plath-worshipping, literal-meaning-mongers out there. Equalling their vacuous collection of conversational words wouldn't mean much to me; contributing something new and trying to further the development of human thinking would be something a bit more useful and fresh than simple restatement of obvious teenage angst.

I think it'd just be easier if I accelerated my plans for the annihilation of mediocrity by starting my historically significant band (which I've tentatively named "German", for its lack of irony but understated abstraction). I accept that the first few gigs may be rough, as my tenor saxophone skills are a bit rusty, and I suspect that they won't transfer as smoothly to the guitar (or drums or keyboard or bass or banjo or acceptable-vocal-talent) as my fifth grade band instructor promised they would if I were to ever have an interest in the clarinet.

If you have an interest in rocking without compromising our obviously red-state-ish conservative Midwestern ideals, please email me.

Trailer Trash...zing!


This summer hasn’t been great for theatrical releases. I’ve seen three or four movies in the theatre over the last few months, but I haven’t been pressed to go out every week like I’d prefer.

Sure, Talladega Nights was immensely entertaining (in a silence-my-inner-asshole way), Friends with Money was a great time in an empty theatre, and Little Miss Sunshine was pleasant enough not to fail my every high expectation. But there hasn’t been much beyond that.

Luckily, I’ve had three-to-five movies each week from Netflix to divert my attention. I’ve seen some incredible movies (The Station Agent, Happiness, American Movie) along with the “what the fuck” moments (The Good Girl, sex, lies, and videotape), so I haven’t lost out on the movie-going experience.

I check Apple trailers periodically, and I’m actually kind of surprised to see there are quite a few movies coming out in the next few months that look quite promising. They’ll try, at the very least, to fill the void until Charlie Kaufman’s next movie (Synecdoche, New York, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Spiderman 3 come out next year.

Man of the Year

Think Robin Williams (minus the spastic crack persona) impersonating Jon Stewart. It sounds pretty heavy handed, but the trailer makes it seem like it’ll actually be funny.

[Video] Man of the Year trailer

Borat

Borat is an extension of Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Da Ali G Show” character, Borat. The trailer gets me quite excited at all the crazy hijinx as the fake Kazakstani reporter makes his way through all the Red, White, and Blue states, exposing social taboos in the process.

[Video] Borat trailer

The Science of Sleep

Michel Gondry seems to be a pretty creative guy. He directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I didn’t mind the missing Spike Jonze influence. He made a short film about driving across the country, with a camera strapped to the back of his convertible and all the clips seamed together in fast-forward motion. Now he extends all that creative process into another project with creativitiy—at least the imagination part—at its center. I don’t like most love stories, unless they involve one person being a little crazy (like Misery!) or a semi-unique-in-a-hipster-sort-of-way imagery theme.

[Video] The Science of Sleep trailer

Mutual Appreciation

Black and white gives a movie that authentic, do-it-yourself feel. So this movie feels indie-as-shit. Probably because it’s supposed to be indie-as-shit as it forwards its indie-as-shit message. I’m not fully against that type of thinking, but I’m not popular enough to accept it as fact either. So, for now, I’ll say that I want to see this movie because the dialogue seems pretty witty, the timing looks to be pretty dry (and dead-on), and the up-and-coming band sounds like something I’d really like (as opposed to other movies’ prodigiously shitty “I am unique/and not loved/but I’ll make it/ out of this pub”-ish bands).

[Video] Mutual Appreciation trailer

Running with Scissors

I immediately think of The Royal Tenenbaums when I watch this movie. True, it does have Brian Cox in it, and true, that does knock a few points off of its highest possible score. And yes, “Benny and the Jets” is playing at the end of the trailer. All things that could make me dismiss it as a wanna-be dysfunctional family comedy wanting to be as perfect as Wes Anderson’s. I highly doubt it will be, but I’m not against this movie yet; it might be highly entertaining, in fact.

[Video] Running With Scissors trailer

The Proposition

I debated with myself whether I should include this one or not, but I think it could be half as good as the trailer quotes promises that it will be, which would still be pretty good. I never like westerns nearly as much as everyone else seems to (with the exception of Tombstone, of course). I hope this one can change the tide for me (since it’s technically the Australian Wild West, or “Outback,” mate).

[Video] The Proposition trailer

27 August 2006

“…and I celebrate you.”


I’m not one to fawn over celebrities. Especially not when it’s celebrities fawning over other celebrities.

But I love Arrested Development (and Will Arnett). Hearts, kisses, 4eva. Like, fer real.

And The Office (and Steve Carell).

And Ricky Gervais (and Stephen Merchant).

And Stephen Colbert.

So when I see them lose undeservedly at a completely unnecessary event meant to give out hand-jobs-in-the-form-of-pointy-statues, I throw a self-pity party because I watched most of the Emmys on NBC.

When best writing came up, “Arrested Development” should have won unchallenged. So, obviously, “My Name is Earl” proves that popularity really does determine quality. And when the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy came up, and Will Arnett (finally being recognized for his GOB character) should most definitely win, he doesn’t. (In all honesty, I’m not pissed about this one—he lost to Jeremy Piven from “Entourage,” so it wasn’t really a loss. Ari Gold is amazing).

Tony Shalhoub beats Steve Carell in comedic lead actor (what the fuck?), Ricky Gervais doesn’t win anything for being one of the five funniest people on the planet (how does that happen?), and Stephen Colbert finished not-first to Barry Manilow (because Manilow is still relevant). If the Daily Show wouldn’t have won the few awards it did, I would have been oh-fer on the night.

But it is just the Emmys, and the people voting on the winners are obviously a little off-kilter when it comes to comedy (usually). So I celebrate the Emmys, because it finally gives me an establishment worthy enough to knock Jim Belushi off his Douche Chill high horse.

I want a hip replacement when I grow up


I’ve been working quite a lot lately, though it hasn’t felt like it (outside of my infrequent updates). One of the reasons time is passing so well is that we’ve been fairly busy with the back-to-school crowd, and I drink as often as I can outside of work. I honestly don’t want to think about what I should be doing instead, what my money should be going to and whom I should be dating/marrying by now, so my time is spent trying to make a paycheck each week without worrying about the next.

But when you have a customer as opinionated and talkative as I had last week, it’s pretty tough to stay short-sighted. I’ll call him Mr. Navy, if only for the ability to spout liberally without unintentionally degrading a man I barely know.

I’m calling him Mr. Navy, though, because that was one recurring theme of our 45-minute talk—he couldn’t understand how I didn’t want to join the Navy. He’s a 78-year-old retired Navy veteran, who traveled all over the world during his time in the service (including three major wars), taught metal-working at the college level and is now working on one to four inventions (most of which involve tires and their amazing ability to be recycled into exciting new products).

He has a hard time getting around, as he’s had a hip replaced and knee surgery very recently, but sitting in a 60-foot furniture clearance tent on a perfect August day didn’t test his leg’s strength. His patience, however, seemed to wane every time I offered a reason for not entering the Navy:

“I’d be in there so damn fast it’d make your head spin. You have no idea. You’re shooting yourself in the foot by not going in. Hell, as tall as you are, you could have your own ship. You’d go in an officer. It’s stupid not to go in. Just plain stupid.”

I try to stay as friendly and personable as I can at work, especially with customers. I don’t, however, automatically switch into a baby-kissing-sofa-selling lifeless degenerate. I still talk sarcastically when I’m with customers, make jokes only I “get” and assert myself enough to go face-to-face with would-be hagglers. So when I was asked what my goals in life were, if not the Navy, I assumed my role as a side-tracked individualist—I told him an abbreviated version of the past year, what I hope the next year will look like and why I’m sitting in a tent with him on that beautiful August morning instead of shooting at the God-less enemies.

But as these things go, every goal I modestly presented invited an opposing inquiry. Why aren’t I working for a newspaper if I like to write? If I want to go to graduate school and teach in college, why aren’t I there right now? Did I know that the Navy has a school for just about everything, and a career that’ll pay a whole $40000 by the time I’m 44?

“The Navy taught me everything I know. If I could walk right, I’d be back so fast. Your head’d spin.”

At the time we were talking, I wasn’t taking what he was saying too seriously. Honestly, I was just having fun talking to him while passing the otherwise-draining tent shift. The self-doubt would come later. After the conversation turned from mildly depressing to utterly befuddling and borderline ridiculous:

The topics of his interest flowed rather quickly, so as my interest in writing came up, his need for a writer did as well. Patent writing. Exciting stuff, so I’ll spare you the details.

From his inventions he somehow led us to the current economy and gas prices. When I say gas prices, I don’t mean he presented an argument for or against the current standard. He literally ignored the cost of gas after mentioning it, but then he expressed his disgust over the nation’s car tastes.

“I remember back in the 1970s the muscle cars were the huge thing. Then it was smaller cars. Then SUVs. And now these damn hybrids. They’ve got all these Mazdas running around, I can’t understand it…”

And I nodded along at these thoughts, because they were true—he didn’t like the fact that car companies made so much money off of selling these popular styles. Supply and demand, I reminded him. And if he would have said something typical like, “Ah well, I’d better get back to looking for a recliner,” our conversation would have ended in a relatively sane manner. But sane is hardly ever interesting, and the conversation had a distinct turn in the direction of interesting—though dramatically less-sympathetic it is:

“…and now they’re recalling all these Mazdas back. Two million of em. Those bastards. Ain’t worth nothing. The Mazdas run around all over there, reproduce, come over here, and reproduce some more. You know what they do over there, don’t you? I had a friend that lived over there for awhile…”

Where?, I ask, not knowing where “dem Mazdas” come from.

“In China. There was a Mazda lady that had fourteen children. And one day, the police found out about it, and they shot her in the street. Shot her dead. We’ve got that here too, you know…for drug dealers. We should just drag them out on the street and shoot them dead.”

More on the amazing insights of Mr. Navy—and his unsolicited freelance police work, the state of the world, and what recliner is the best damn recliner Sofa Mart carries, as well as my resulting questioning of life—later.

24 August 2006

Something irrelevant

This is a little different from my usual fare, but for some reason I got to thinking yesterday about Tommy Frazier and his amazing game in the college football national championship a decade ago.

YouTube, being the amazing (if not back-stabbing and manipulative) resource it is, takes fifteen seconds to send me back to my amazed twelve-year-old self. Watch, if only for the amazing tackling.

18 August 2006

Random facts about me [that wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate in a personal ad]:


I am good at sharing.

On some nights, when supplies allow, I eat four marshmallows. Why four? Because the serving size index tells me those four blobs of heaven contain only ninety calories. And I enjoy the irony (though growing less so) in my own “you are what you eat” argument.

I’m legally blind. On a related note, I’m very good at guessing (especially while driving and initiating awkwardly long eye contact).

I make things up. Lots and lots.

I once won the Nobel Prize but declined the honor—to keep my “indie” rep.

I dislike walks on the beach, but only because at the thought of it, my mind goes straight to “Saving Private Ryan” while I limply fall into a catatonic, Cameron Frye-ish state.

I can frame complex portraits at an arm’s length.

I do not [knowingly] have herpes.

I am against the inhuman slaughter of baby carrots. (zing!)

About half of the time I dislike most people. The other half of the time I only dislike you.

Typical...


You know what’s weird? I was reading an article in the New York Times about an unbelievably complicated math thinger-dingy while I do my usual casual-alcoholic drinking thing, and I was doing just fine with it all, but then I realized that there are things that are completely out of my control and that I should watch out for. Like life. Because it’s a fast ride and all you can hope to do is hop on before you get maimed by the bear of injustice or impotized by the sting of VD.

It’s tough being a grown-up now. Because, technically, I guess I am. I heard a lot about the non-MTV-herpes-party “real world” the last few months of college, and now I’m a grown up in that real world. And I’ve nearly accepted that, except for the fact that I haven’t exactly accepted that, because to accept that would mean that I wasn’t depressed about school starting up again without me, and that my weekday drinking wasn’t more frequent in the last two months than the college-fun-fest of four years before that, and my day-to-day job not being so much more fucking easy than the “easy life” of college.

I work twelve hour days, but they mostly consist of a few people sitting around talking, then when a promising stranger comes in one of us tries to fuck them (sell, I mean—it’s a college metaphor thing), then if we do we’re happy for awhile until another customer comes in to blue ball us, then we sit around more and I nearly fall asleep while somebody else tries to take a picture of me falling asleep, then we talk about food (and on some days how we should totally order a pizza) and then we try to fuck—sell—more strangers, then we leave with me not getting fucked at all, and then I drink alone in my basement and wonder what it takes to get some motherfucking nachos—and a little selling action.

But I find myself wanting some kind of stimulation or gratification—I’m off the low-brow dick jokes now, as I mean it in the strictly intellectual sense. I’ve got these books I want to read, but I’ve had little motivation to read them. Same with every half-developed fiction idea. And every editorial I think deserves my opinionation. And even a series of light-fare literary theory—for instance, expanding my ideas of Marxist principles in the US version of “The Office,” or revealing the anti-humanist threads of thought in popular culture. I’ve got ideas, with plenty of time, but I need someone to give me money to get my ass in motion, because that seems to be my lone passion lately. Woohoo, integrity.

So donate like a thousand dollars to me and I’ll write all your college papers for you while I work myself back into formal writing shape. Or donate a couple hundred and I’ll start running to get into marathon shape. Or donate $7 and I’ll do dirty things on a web cam. As you can see, I’m a fairly cheap date, depending on your specific taste.

16 August 2006

When our powers combine...



I can't see how it's possible for this movie to be as horrible as most expect, or as hillariously awesome as the name might suggest. I'm guessing for somewhere in the middle. Lots of motherfuckin snakes. Lots of Samuel Motherfucking Jackson. Maybe not, as I originally predicted, a motherfucking Oscar.

Luckily, as this clip kind of hints at, the makers of the movie realized they couldn't make it into a serious action movie. Instead, they took the common-sense advice of millions of internet-types and made it more ridiculous. They actually went back into production to film more of Samuel motherfucking Jackson being Samuel snake-snuffing-motherfucking Jackson. Good stuff.

I’m predicting it’ll make around $40 million this weekend, the studio will make a sequel within a year, and people will finally get over the concept (unless the sequel’s title is “Polar Bears on a Bus”).

I contend all options were not considered closely enough


You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in awhile. And while I’d like to say that I was on my summer vacation, partying with friends, and rebelling against the machine overlords, I simply didn’t have much motivation to share. I was still contemplating things (for instance, are garlic parmesan chips not the greatest fucking chips in the world?) so you needn’t worry about my health.

And while this is pushing a fortnight old, I somehow caught the winner of “The Office” promo contest two Thursdays ago while drinking heavily at a local public gathering spot. It wasn’t too bad. Same basic concept as mine—someone starts an office prank, another retaliates, blood is shed, etcetera. Laughing ensues. There were no words, however, and I like some words when combined well with others, and I’ve decided that my belated scene should be awarded an honorary statue.

While the judges (and NBC) might see it differently, I don’t mind that I didn’t spend more than ten minutes writing, preparing and posting the script. And that it isn’t “technically” a twenty second clip ready for air. Semantics, semantics…

Breaking news: I'm not dead.

Have I ever mentioned before how non-threatening and polite I find the British asides on ABC’s overnight World News Now? There’s usually one of three ole’ chaps that update the New York-based news show on what the Old Country is talking about in the current day. They even have a bus counter in the bottom corner to count how many double-decker buses pass on the green-screened city street behind them—actually, the day I figured out it was a green screen (and not a window studio with an amazing view) I became about four times as disillusioned and misanthropic.

Yay, cultural differences.

09 August 2006

America's Got Crabs

I call bullshit.

I’ve said in previous posts that I wanted either Chris Porter or Josh Blue to win NBC’s Last Comic Standing. And, since Josh won it tonight, I should be happy with the results. But I’m not. Not at all.

The final twelve weren’t the funniest twelve in the competition; I’ve said that before. But in the first two rounds, Josh and Chris were deserving.

Now, after seeing Josh over so many shows, I’m quite sure he was not the strongest comic in the field. Not even top two (but top twelve, definitely). I didn’t think Ty Barnett was funny until one of his jokes in Tuesday night’s final show setup. Now I think he’s generally not too funny, but he gets lucky once in awhile.

Here’s what I think changed my opinion of Josh by the end of the series: he wore me down. I laughed uncontrollably at his audition set, as well as his longer set to qualify him for the final twelve. He was different, quirky and self-deprecating enough to cut past any pity votes from sentimentalists.

But he didn’t have an unlimited pool of material to choose from, and he couldn’t change the tone of his act halfway through from one completely focuses on his Cerebral Palsy to one that was detached from him. He makes fun of himself, and it makes people laugh. I like him, but he had to recycle material the last few weeks to fill in the gaps. He was, by far, the happiest to get on stage to perform; it was visible in every performance. But as far as his composure, waning material and preparation, I didn’t think he deserved to win the show. He’s similar to Bobcat Goldthwaith—catchy at first, but maybe not so much for the long-term way.

Obviously, I’m a little bitter about Chris Porter not winning. I never saw him repeat a joke, he was confident with every joke he told and he was never dull. But by tomorrow morning, I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s actually a better thing he didn’t win, because I never hear from the previous Last Comic Standing winners anymore. I never hear from the losers either, but I’m holding out hope that Chris Porter could be an exception to the rule.

And it shouldn’t be surprising that, when left to the American Idol voting public, the best candidate failed to win. It made for an appropriate lead-in to America’s Got Talent, which I actually watched with half my attention. Half my attention was enough to realize what I’d be missing this whole time, and it made the whole show that much better:

The title is supposed to be ironic.

I hear the producers of the show wanted to call it America’s Craziest Fuckers, but there was a trademark issue or something. The “talent” consisted of a finger-snapper, plenty of creepy Hoff innuendo ("In your end-o), judged proving they’re only there because they’re famous, and contestants proving that television can never quite bottom out (come close though it does).

The most amazing part of the show was when a magician performed, and I immediately thought of Gob (off of Arrested Development). He didn’t have the amazing background music that makes any shitty magic act respectable, so I was a bit put off. But he did mess up (saying something like “snowing…in Las Vegas! Um, Los Angeles…”). So he should win.

The Wednesday night crapshoot of television reality television is hopefully wrapping up with summer’s dwindling life. I can’t say I’m upset about it. Exuberant would be fitting, actually.

07 August 2006

Grammatication in action--more exciting than you think

In the absense of anything that would be considered relevant content, I would just like to point out that "mumblers" aren't heard clearly enough (especially in situations of self-promotion), "lispers" feel taunted with their collective lable, and "stutterers" are still trying to tell you their more-difficult-to-say-than-it-is-to-think affliction.

That is all.

02 August 2006

Where's Harvard Square?


Tapes N' Tapes is one of my favorite bands I've come upon the past few months, and it sounds as if Culture Bully Chris DeLine is finally coming around to liking his fellow Minneapoleans.

This is a great edition of "Insistor," even though it's close to an identical record copy. There's no huge live-show-bonuses with this single, but it's nice to know the power and energy transfer.

Office promo clip contest-shmontest


There was a contest during July to “Make your own ‘Office’ promo clip.” While I wanted to do it, I never got a solid idea to rally behind. Also, limited resources wouldn’t have allowed much—I’ve no video camcorder, nor much in the way of video editing software.

Lucky for me, I don’t need those things to fantasize how amazing this clip would be. I’ve written the script, complete with show tie-ins and one “inside” joke (the ‘punch’ thing, for all you non-obsessives). But as far as I can tell, it’d be almost perfect time-wise (20 seconds) and, as long as I’m already self-promoting (see: last line), it’s fucking brilliant. Let me know what you think (and when you want to donate your digital camcorder/$550 for future projects).

[DAL=Dwight look-a-like, or Dwight-a-like; JAL=Jim-a-like)

DAL- Guess what they served at the wedding?

JAL- Alcohol.

DAL- No…PUNCH! [punches him in the shoulder]

JAL- What are you doing? [motions with head slightly]

DAL- I’m being Dwight!

JAL- Don’t do that.

DAL- Why can’t I be your Dwight?

JAL- [turns to look him in the eye] I like you too much. You’ll never be my Dwight.

[Dwight-a-like obviously disappointed. As Dwight-a-like turns to walk away, he trips over a paper box Jim-a-like directed a Pam-a-like to innocuously slide behind him after the punch.]

DAL- [on his back] Oh, Jim! You got me again!

[camera moves up to only show Jim-a-like from waist up, as he tosses the coffee out of his mug, onto Dwight-a-like]

JAL- [casually] It’s Joe.

[Dwight-a-like’s yelp cut off quickly by “The Office” promo logo]

I should get paid for guessing these types of things


I've been trying to keep up with "Last Comic Standing," but the furniture business is a good business, and they occasionally expect me to show up for work. So for the past few weeks (excluding tonight) I wasn't able to see Chris Porter perform.

Well, after tonight's show (and the far-too-nerve-racking Michelle Ballin [?] elimination) I saw Chris do what Chris does--hint: it's telling jokes.

While the crowd didn't seem as into it as other shows I've seen, I thought it was pretty damn solid ("It's a good idea to talk to Jesus before you meet him," in reference to his old mushroom-eating experiences). And it reminded me of whom I thought was going to win the entire thing two months ago, when I saw the first episode.

Yep. Chris Porter (and Josh Blue).

The video above is Chris' first audience performance on 'Last Comic Standing.' Honestly, I've never heard a better-written, or funnier, joke. And so I stand behind my prophetic June pick and announce that Chris Porter should win over Josh Blue in next week's final. No question.

01 August 2006

Individuality is best represented by mob mentality


If your daily routine ever starts dragging on you, just be thankful to the fucking stars that you don’t have to be the guy who points the hands of the clock towards the lit-up light bulbs for ten hours a day.

If you’ve somehow fallen into this profession, I apologize; but hey, look at the bright side—at least there’s not a machine-man-disguised-as-a-holy-woman trying to drown all your children!

I watched “Metropolis” tonight, a silent film from 1927 about the working class (in a futuristic city) rising up against the all-powerful thinkers. There’s deception and plot twists throughout, along with surprisingly good special effects, considering the time. I doubt many of you will rush out to rent it, so I’ll ruin the surprise for you: violence against the government isn’t good. Your children almost drown if you rise up against the machines. So don’t. Things will work themselves out. But burn all the witches, because they're probably disguised man-machines.

Also today, I watched “V for Vendetta.” The message of that movie? Blow the fuck out of governmental buildings, kill opposing party leaders, and spread propaganda to the masses and you’ll get your way. Again: amazing special effects, side-story lovey-stuff, and kids getting killed. The main differences? Mostly the man-machine-disguised-as-a-saint and the blowing the figurative fuck out of important buildings. I prefer the latter.